They sat three across the Penske truck. Alexi was in the middle. They had been driving since 5am and were now navigating their way to the closest motel. Motel. A lot of things change when the H turns to an M. A murder was sure to take place and if not that then a slow death caused by a disease contracted through bed bugs with an infestation that they would carry unsuspectingly into Brooklyn.
She had never even heard of bed bugs until the month prior when she and her mother Patty took a weekend trip to Brooklyn to find an apartment. They sat at a Chinese restaurant in Sunset Park coming up with a plan on how they were going to find the perfect apartment the next day and then spend the rest of the weekend seeing Broadway shows and learning the ins and outs of the city. A Dominican women in her 50s sat alone at a table next to them eagerly looking over waiting to make eye contact and divulge personal information to strangers that probably wouldn’t give damn.
“Where are you two from” she asked looking Patty straight in the eye.
People always talked to Patty. She was warm looking with big blue eyes and shoulder length dark brown hair curled under at the ends and teeth as straight and white as a movie star or at least as someone who had had braces and she never did, they were natural beautiful teeth which is something Alexi always marveled at mainly because everyone she knew had braces and if they didn’t their teeth looked like they had spent their life chewing rocks, but not her mother, she had naturally beautiful teeth which Alexi was weirdly proud of.
“From Texas” Patty said in a genuinely friendly voice. Alexi was annoyed that a stranger had interrupted them, but Patty wasn’t.
“Oh wow, all the way from Texas! I have a niece living in Texas.” The Dominican said.
Someone always has a “someone” in Texas.
The three of them spent an hour talking about Texas and Brooklyn, about how Alexi and her new husband and brother-in-law were moving to Brooklyn for no particular reason at all other than to get a change of scenery and “have an adventure before we have kids” Alexi would say. She said this a lot, she thought she sounded bold and adventurous and also reasonable by adding the ‘before we have kids” which acknowledged that they would indeed have kids and that they understood having kids would take away the ability to have spontaneous adventures like moving to Brooklyn. It was a load of crap, but she liked saying it.
The Dominican offered a warning wrapped up like advice in a web of a story-
“You have to watch out for bed bugs” she told them. “They can hide in anything”
She proceeded to talk about her son, how he got into a little college in upstate and she was so proud of him, how he dropped out and moved back home to take care of his girlfriend and new baby boy, how he liked to drink and do drugs and how the last time she had spoken to him they fought. Alexi wondered what the hell this had to do with bed bugs.
“He had been out drinking night after night leaving me with his son. He didn’t even ask me to take care of the baby, he would just drop him off at my place and disappear. He called me one night asking me to pick him up from the club. I didn’t, I yelled at him instead.” She paused for a long time “What was I supposed to do wake the baby at 3am?” She asked them. They didn’t say a word but looked at her with wrinkled foreheads. Alexi stuck a greasy dumpling in her mouth so she wouldn’t have to answer.
“He decided to walk home. He walked home on the BQE. On the BQE!” She yelled this at them, but it meant nothing. They had no idea what the BQE was. They were from Texas.
“He was struck by a car going 90 mph and that was it.” She was crying now and Patty had moved over to her table and put her arm around the woman.
“Anyway, we had the most beautiful service for him. He had so many friends and they sent flowers and cards, it was sweet. A few days after the funeral I was reading the cards his friends had sent and you know what was in one of those cards?”
She looked straight at Alexi. “A fucking bed bug.”